Author Michael Arceneaux discusses the fall of Les Moonves who, in addition to being an alleged sexual assaulter and harasser, was revealed to have engineered Janet Jackson’s blacklisting after the 2004 Super Bowl.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Janet Jackson is engaged in a traditional promotional rollout for a new project.
It’s only for a single, “Made For Now” featuring Daddy Yankee, rather than for a full-length album, but the heightened visibility of the legendary pop star cannot be understated. She has returned to late-night television in order to perform the new track on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She is gracing the covers of mainstream magazines like InStyle and Billboard. She is doing numerous radio interviews for stations across the country—a practice that many artists could stand to return to. But considering Jackson’s stature, it’s somewhat surprising that she would.
There is also an increasing amount of homages being paid to precious Janet, including at events like BET’s Black Girls Rock. She has been noticeably more active across social media—amassing a team that realizes Jackson needs to meet her sizable fan base where they are, and engage them. The same can be said for her performances at festivals throughout this recent summer.
The success of Jackson’s “Made For Now” has already been questioned by some, but as far as Janet Jackson’s legend and legacy are concerned, it hasn’t been this good for her since February 1st, 2004—the date of the infamous Super Bowl halftime show where Janet’s nipple was exposed, resulting in Jackson’s effective blacklisting.
For those of us who love Janet Jackson and respect her contributions to music throughout her storied career, it is rewarding to see her once again dominate the platforms and garner the praise she deserves. It has always been unsettling to watch a nipple negate the status of an artist who twice in her career commanded the biggest recording contracts of all time.
And while many long suspected that there was an intentional effort by powerful people to silence Jackson, the world has only recently been provided with a clearer picture of just how intentional those efforts were.
In an exclusive for HuffPost, reporter Yashar Ali revealed that Jackson “became a years-long fixation” for Les Moonves who, up until last week, was the CEO and chairman of CBS.
With respect to the “wardrobe malfunction,” Ali says that “Moonves has been open about the fact that the incident caused him embarrassment, and he told sources who spoke to me that Jackson, in his mind, was not sufficiently repentant.”
This all but doomed the release of her 2004 album, Damita Jo. But as we’ve come to learn, the damage to Jackson’s career lasted for several years.
As fate would have it, Moonves’ own career is all but over in light of Ronan Farrow’s report for the New Yorker, which described the multiple allegations leveled at Moonves for sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
Farrow’s follow up story, published on September 9th, included six more accusers and led to Moonves’ ousting from CBS. Presently, Time’s Up is calling on CBS to donate Moonves’ $120 million severance package to groups that combat sexual harassment.
The fact that he is even in the running to receive such a payoff should make people of decency alarmed.
To wit, in the New York Times piece, “Threats and Deception: Why CBS’s Board Turned Against Leslie Moonves,” you learn that, frankly, many of the CBS board members knew what kind of man Les Moonves is—and they wanted him to remain in power all the same. He is only gone now because, in light of Farrow’s reporting and the number of women stepping forward to talk, there’s no way for him to remain CEO without the network facing substantial backlash.
Before I could even wonder who else had their success disrupted by this man, Linda Bloodworth Thomason—one of CBS’s biggest hitmakers—revealed in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter that Moonves ruined her career. Thomason, who created Designing Women, once had the largest producing and writing contract in the history of CBS. But for seven years, as she notes in the op-ed, he kept all of her shows off the air. Thomason wrote: “People asked me for years, ‘What happened to you?’ Les Moonves happened to me.”
She then paints a grim albeit realistic picture: “The truth is, Les Moonves may never be punished in the way that he deserves. He will almost certainly never go to jail. And he has already made hundreds of millions of dollars during his highly successful and truly immoral, bullying, misogynist reign.”
If it were up to me, Les Moonves would spend the rest of his life in a lonely prison cell gargling his own spit for amusement as he contemplates the fact that he wasted the precious gift of life on Earth by being an alleged abusive, mean, vile, disgusting predator. But as Thomason writes, it is far more plausible that he will spend the rest of his life in leisure.
That’s why, as elated as I am to see Janet Jackson’s success resurface despite efforts from Moonves—and as powerful as it is to see creatives like Linda Bloodworth Thomason speak out—I’m haunted by how many more women are surely waiting to tell their stories. And how many more men have pushed those women into silence.
That said, Thomason did end with a promise to the latter: “We are not going to stop until every last one of you is gone. We don’t care anymore if you go to jail or go to hell. Just know at some point that you are leaving.”
The sooner, the better.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of the newly released book I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.